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How Long Will You Live?

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An individual’s life span is determined by many factors, including genetic history, personal health habits, socioeconomic status, and personality. To see how these factors interact, complete the following life expectancy questionnaire for yourself (or for someone you know).


The basic life expectancy for American males of all races today is 75 years; for females it is 81 years. Write this beginning number down; then, as you check through the list, add or subtract the appropriate number of years for each item. If the information does not apply to you, just go on to the next question. For example, in #1, none of my grandparents lived beyond 80. Or, perhaps your grandparents are not yet 80. I started at 81, 81 just carries over to the next box. In #2, my father died before age 80, but my mother lived to be 90. I can add 4 years to my 81, so now my life expectancy is 85. If your parents are younger than 80, you are still at your starting point, so move on to #3. See? Some of the responses call for “judgment” calls from you. Answer to the best of your ability, keeping in mind that these are only indicators and not guarantees.


Beginning Life Expectancy = ___________


1. Longevity of grandparents

Add 1 year for each grandparent living beyond age 80. Add one-half year for each grandparent surviving beyond the age of 70.

2. Longevity of parents

If your mother lived beyond the age of 80, add 4 years. Add 2 years if your father lived beyond 80.

3. Cardiovascular disease among close relatives

If any parent, grandparent, or sibling died from cardiovascular disease before age 50, subtract 4 years for each incidence. If any died from the above before the age of 60, subtract 2 years.

4. Other heritable disease among close relatives

If any parent, grandparent, or sibling died before the age of 60 from diabetes or peptic ulcer, subtract 3 years. If any died before 60 from stomach cancer, subtract 2 years. Women whose close female relatives have died before 60 from breast cancer should also subtract 2 years. Finally, if any close relatives have died before the age of 60 from any cause except accidents or homicide, subtract 1 year for each incidence.

5. Childbearing

Women who cannot or do not plan to have children, and those over 40 who have never had children, should subtract one-half year. Women who have had over seven children, or plan to, should subtract 1 year.

6. Mother’s age at your birth

Was your mother over the age of 35 or under the age of 18 when you were born? If so, subtract 1 year.

7. Birth order

Are you the first-born in your family? If so, add 1 year.

8. Intelligence

If you feel that you are superior in intelligence, add 2 years.

9. Weight

If you are more than 30 percent overweight, subtract 5 years. If you are more than 10 percent overweight, subtract 2 years.

10. Dietary habits

If you eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, and usually stop eating before feeling full, add 1 year. If you drink five or more cups of coffee per day, subtract one-half year.

11. Smoking

If you smoke two or more packs of cigarettes a day, subtract 12 years. If you smoke between one and two packs a day, subtract 7 years. If you smoke less than a pack a day, subtract 2 years.

12. Drinking

If you are a moderate drinker, add 3 years. If you are a light drinker, add 1.5 years. If you are a heavy drinker, subtract 8 years.

13. Exercise

If you exercise briskly at least three times a week, add 3 years.

14. Sleep

If you sleep more than 10 hours or less than 5 hours a night, subtract 2 years.

15. Sexual activity

If you enjoy sexual activity at least once a week, add 2 years.

16. Regular physical examinations

If you have an annual physical examination by your physician, add 2 years.

17. Health status

If you have a chronic illness at present, subtract 5 years.

18. Years of education

If you graduated from college, add 4 years. If you attended college but did not graduate, add 2 years. If you graduated from high school but did not attend college, add 1 year. If you have less than an eighth-grade education, subtract 2 years.

19. Occupational level (former, if retired; spouse’s, if you are not working)

Professional, add 1.5 years; technicians, administrators, managers, and agricultural workers, add 1 year; semi-skilled workers should subtract one-half year; laborers should subtract 4 years.

20. Family income

If your family income is above average for your education and occupation, add

1 year. If it is below average for your education and occupation, subtract 1 year.

21. Activity on the job

If your job involves a lot of physical activity, add 2 years. If your job requires that you sit all day, subtract 2 years.

22. Age and work

If you are over the age of 60 and still on the job, add 2 years. If you are over the age of 65 and have not retired, add 4 years.

23. Rural vs. urban dwelling

If you live in an urban area and have lived in or near the city for most of your life, subtract 1 year. If you have spent most of your life in a rural area, add 1 year.

24. Married vs. divorced

If you are married and living with your spouse, add 1 year. Men: If you are separated or divorced and living alone, subtract 9 years (not alone: subtract 4 years). If you are widowed and living alone, subtract 7 years (not alone: subtract

3 years). Women: If you are separated or divorced and living alone, subtract

4 years. If you are widowed and living alone, subtract 3 years. If you are separated, divorced, or widowed and not living alone, subtract 2 years.

25. Single living status

Unmarried women (living alone or with others) and unmarried men who live with family or friends should subtract 1 year for each unmarried decade past age 25. Unmarried men who live alone should subtract 2 years for each decade after 25.

26. Life changes

If you are always changing things in your life—jobs, residences, friends—subtract 2 years.

27. Friendship

If you have at least two close friends in whom you can confide almost all the details of your life, add 1 year.

28. Aggressive personality

If you have an aggressive and sometimes hostile personality, subtract 2 years.

29. Flexible personality

If you are a calm, easygoing, adaptable person, add 2 years. If you are rigid, dogmatic, and set in your ways, subtract 2 years.

30. Risk-taking personality

If you take a lot of risks, including driving without seat belts, exceeding the speed limit, and taking any dare that is made, subtract 2 years. If you use seat belts regularly, drive infrequently, and generally avoid risks and dangerous parts of town, add 1 year.

31. Depressive personality

Have you been depressed, tense, worried, or guilty for more than a period of a year or two? If so, subtract 1 to 3 years depending upon how seriously you are affected by these feelings.

32. Happy personality

Are you basically happy and content, and have you had a lot of fun in life? If so, add 2 years.

After you have completed the longevity questionnaire, fill in the information requested on the handout and return the response sheet to your instructor.


Source: National Center for Health Statistics. 1999. United States Department of

Health and Human Services.


How Long Will You Live?: Follow-Up Questionnaire

1. By how many years did your predicted longevity change as a result of the factors listed below? For each factor, a negative change indicates a decrease in predicted longevity; a positive change in years indicates an increase in predicted longevity.


a. Genetic history. Subtract your beginning life expectancy from your total after item 8 (intelligence). Number of years by which predicted longevity changed (indicate plus or minus)


b. Personal health habits. Subtract your total after item 17 (health status) from your total following item 8 (intelligence). Number of years by which predicted longevity changed


c. Socioeconomic status. Subtract your total in years following item 22 (age and work) from your total following item 17 (health status). Number of years by which predicted longevity changed


d. Social and personality characteristics. Subtract your total in years following item 32 (happy personality) from your total following item 22 (age and work). Number of years by which predicted longevity changed


2. By how many years did your predicted longevity change (increase or decrease from beginning life expectancy) as a result of factors that are under your direct control? Number of years by which predicted longevity changed …


3. By how many years did your predicted longevity change (increase or decrease from beginning life expectancy) as a result of factors that you cannot control? Number of years by which predicted longevity changed …


4. Did completing the questionnaire encourage you or your subject to make any changes in your personal habits or lifestyle? If so, what are those changes?


5. Which, if any, variables were you surprised to discover were related to life expectancy? Why did they surprise you?


6. a. Are there variables that did not appear in the questionnaire that you would also expect to be related to longevity? Name them.

b. Which research methods might you use to determine whether such a relationship does, in fact, exist?


7. What are the strengths and limitations of the correlational method of research?


Write at least 1-2 pages summarizing the follow-up questionnaire, outlining your reaction to this activity and indicating what action plan you feel might be warranted.

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